Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses after Serrano

Sheila E. Murray, William N. Evans and Robert M. Schwab, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 16(1), 10-31, January .


The constitutionality of public school finance systems has been challenged in 43 states in the 25 years since the landmark Serrano decision. Using data on revenues from more than 16,000 school districts over the 1972-1992 period, this article assesses the impact of court-mandated reform on the role of the states in school finance. We find that resources from the state increased while revenues from local districts were roughly unchanged after successful litigation. States also followed a more aggressive redistribution policy in the aftermath of court-mandated reform; after successful litigation, state aid to the poorest districts increased and aid to the wealthiest districts remained unchanged. Finally, we find that reforms that were initiated by the states without judicial prodding were typically ineffective.

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